Iran: How Does This End?

So far, I’ve been agnostic about whether the vote count of the Iranian election was rigged or not. But this CSM interview with Farideh Farhi of the University of Hawaii (via Yigal Schliefer) is pretty compelling. As part of her decades-long research on Iran, Farhi has routinely gone over historical data from Iranian elections with a fine-tooth comb. She concludes that the Interior Ministry “pulled [the numbers] out of their hats,” and that the announced results are a “brazen manipulation.” As an empiricist, I give that kind of analysis more weight than either the educated conjecture of the Leveretts arguing […]

Iran Tea-Leaf Reading

Tea-leaf reading is about all we can do, after all. But having said that, this Noah Millman exercise in that fine art (via Andrew Sullivan) is a solid primer in terms of which moves to watch in the internal power struggle currently being decided in Tehran. Two thoughts. First, Le Monde is “reporting” (I put that in quotes given how uncertain the situation on the ground is) that Mir Hossein Moussavi has called on his supporters to cancel the planned opposition demonstration today, after supporters of the regime scheduled a counter-rally in the same location one hour prior. The decision […]

In his April 5 disarmament speech in Prague, President Barack Obama endorsed constructing “a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation.” An international uranium fuel bank seeks to address one of the fundamental problems with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) — namely, that it allows countries to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies that they can then rapidly convert from civilian to military use. According to the most common interpretation of the treaty, states can develop extensive uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities while a member in […]

COIN and the Clausewitz-ization of U.S. Military Doctrine

I’m sure I won’t be the one to convince him of why, but I disagree with Michael Cohen when he says that the “fetishization and enshrinement” of COIN is “a slippery slope for more not less US military intervention.” In the same post, Cohen rightfully reminds us that trends in military doctrine have a pretty short half-life. The U.S. didn’t go around looking for places where we could unleash an air war in the late-90s, after all, even though that trend, as Cohen insightfully points out, was all the rage after the Kosovo campaign. Surely that’s an argument against his […]

WPR on Bloggingheads

World Politics Review managing editor Judah Grunstein appeared on yesterday with Henry Farrell to discuss coverage and implications of the Iranian elections, the EU parliament elections, copyright law and drone strikes in Pakistan. The full video can be seen here. Below is the segment on coverage of the Iranian elections:

The Revolutionary Bourgeois

Another thought: If Ahmadinejad did actually win, and the reformists end up overturningthe regime, our sympathy would essentially be going to a minority-ruleregime of the privileged urban elites over the rural masses. In otherwords, exactly the kind of revolution that progressive Americans havegenerally been opposed to. The ’60s and ’70s Latin American revolutionsso popular with the American left, for instance, were the exactopposite: peasant revolutions against urban elites. Very interesting how globalization has essentially closed the age ofthe proletarian/peasant revolution and restored, on a planetary scale, the originalrevolutionary bourgeois of the 18th century.

The Pathos of Iran

Clearly something is happening in Tehran. It is premature to know exactly how deep and broad the opposition really is. Reports of 2-3 million protestors, for instance, seem farfetched in a city whose population is 7 million. But even if the number is far less, the massive demonstrations in defiance of a ruthless regime are terribly moving and awe-inspiring. Events like these separate the realists from the idealists, I suppose. I’ve been called a realist, but it’s hard to apply cold reason to such an inspiring demonstration of the human aspiration to break free of the chains imposed by others. […]

Parsing the Iran Election

I’ve been digesting the news from Iran, in bits and pieces over the weekend, and a bit more methodically today. And there are a few threads that I think need some teasing out, since they’ve tended to get mixed up in the weave of passion and empathy that’s characterized the real-time blog coverage I’ve seen so far. To begin with, it’s important not to let enthusiasm for the cause of Iranian reformist voters and outrage over their treatment at the hands of the Iranian regime in the election’s aftermath translate into certainty over what remains a very opaque outcome. Western […]

The skyrocketing use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has generated intense debate about how useful they are against insurgent/terrorist networks. Some prominent counterinsurgency experts have decried the “siege mentality” among non-combatant locals caused by collateral damage from the drone strikes. But despite the charge that drones represent a technology (i.e., a means) in search of a strategy (i.e., end goals), there’s no question that: 1) drones are here to stay, and 2) they’re truly re-symmetricizing the battlefield in a much-needed manner. Over the past generation, warfare has dramatically downshifted, from the Cold War’s […]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a much-anticipated foreign policy speech on Sunday evening, billed as a response to U.S. President Barack Obama’s address at Cairo University 10 days earlier. Obama’s message in Cairo had been clear: “America will align our policies with those who pursue peace.” So it was no coincidence that Netanyahu opened his speech by declaring, “Peace was always the desire of our people,” and pledging his full support for Obama’s efforts “to bring about a new era of reconciliation in our region.” Also echoing Obama’s repeated emphasis on the importance of speaking the truth, Netanyahu talked […]

Iran Elections: What’s Next for U.S. Policy?

The circumstances surrounding Iran’s presidential election, and in particular the declaration of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner despite opposition accusations of vote rigging, will present difficulties for any attempt by the Obama administration to diplomatically engage the Islamic Republic of Iran. The administration had been circumspect during Iran’s election campaign, but clearly it was hoping for a reformist victory by either Mir Hossein Moussavi or Mehdi Karrubi. Although neither would have guaranteed a thaw in U.S.-Iranian relations, a reformist victory would have made engaging Iran an easier political sell, both in Washington as well as among European and […]

Judah Grunstein and Henry Farrell on

WPR Manging Editor Judah Grunstein and Henry Farrell of George Washington University and the Crooked Timber blog, discussed Iran’s elections, European politics and more in a June 15 discussion hosted by Browse the discussion by topic at

Turkey-Iraq Military Cooperation Agreement

More signals are emerging of remarkable movement on the Turkey-Kurdish question. Turkey and Iraq just signed an MoU on military cooperation, which alone says a lot, given the fact that Turkey is still routinely violating Iraqi airspace and sovereignty in its campaign against the PKK. Meanwhile, Ankara’s engagement with Irbil, capital of the Kurdish Regional Government of Iraq, continues, with a planned visit by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Tangentially, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party has been invited to both Baghdad (by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani) and to Washington (by President Barack Obama), in advance of the U.S. withdrawal […]

A few days after President Barack Obama stood on the podium at Cairo University sending a message of reconciliation to Muslims around the world, voters in Lebanon went to the polls and delivered a stunning blow to Hezbollah, the so-called Party of God. The victory by the U.S.-backed March 14 against the Iran-backed March 8 alliance came as a surprise to just about everyone. Since Lebanon is a microcosm of the Middle East, the vote had important regional resonance. But Lebanon is also a Rorschach test, so interpretations of the results reflected the multiplicity of views about what the most […]

When Faith in COIN Becomes Certainty

For some reason, this sentence from the CNAS report (.pdf) on Afghanistan and Pakistan that I wrote up yesterday kept rattling around the cranium: But because populations in civil wars tend to side with whichever group exercises control, protecting the population must take precedence over all other considerations. That sums up in a nutshell the central premise of COIN doctrine, from which all of its operational priorities are derived. Now, to be very clear, unlike Michael Cohen, I think that the COIN doctrine represents an enormous advance in the U.S. approach to warfare, both strategically and politically. Strategically, it represents […]

On Friday, just over 46 million Iranians will go to the polls to elect the president of the Islamic Republic to a four-year term. Controversial hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the candidate to beat, but he is facing a stiff challenge in an intriguing struggle that has taken shape in the last few weeks of the campaign. Reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi has emerged as the main threat to the incumbent, while another reformist, Mehdi Karrubi, and another hardliner, Mohsen Rezai, are also in the race. In Iran’s unique constitutional system, severe vetting by the Islamic Republic’s political elite determines […]

Turkey, Europe and the Cyprus ‘Ticking Bomb’

Along the same lines of last week’s post regarding Turkey’s shifting foreign policy priorities, Yigal Schleifer (whose blog Istanbul Calling is must reading if you have an interest in Turkey), flags a paper regarding Turkey-EU relations. Essentially, to assuage doubts about his — and Turkey’s — Western-friendly bona fides, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reaffirmed Turkey and Europe’s mutual engagement, putting it in the context of a shared history that dates back to the 11th century. Seriously. The dude’s old school. Clicking through to the paper itself (.pdf), I was not surprised to see it identify Cyprus as the “ticking […]

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